Saturday, 27 September 2014

I have written rather a lot of

letters in my lifetime. Some people would probably say I have written far too many letters.
There were the inevitable "thank you" letters for presents when I was small. I never minded the idea of writing those. I was just much too conscious of the fact that the results looked awful. I wanted to say a lot but the physical act of writing it down usually defeated me.
When I was sent off to boarding school there was that point in the week (a Wednesday evening) where everyone had to write their letter "home". We sat there and chewed the ends of pens, biros and pencils and wondered what on earth to tell our parents. After all there were things you did not tell your parents if you were in your teens. I usually ignored school altogether and told my parents about the weekend as I normally spent that with my paternal grandparents. Our letters were read before they were posted and it cast a great restraint on what we could say. (I did not like boarding school for a number of reasons.) I wrote other letters and posted them when I was at my grandparents' home. My paternal grandmother, with extraordinary understanding, provided the stamps.
Later there was also the dutiful letter home. I would, whatever else was happening, write home on Fridays. My mother expected this. If I failed to do so for any reason then an explanation would be demanded. Oh yes, I wrote letters home.
I also wrote other letters. There was a cousin of the Senior Cat in New Zealand, a cousin's wife in Canada and my godmother. (I told the latter all sorts of things I would never have told my mother. Bless her, she kept her mouth firmly shut.)
I wrote to other people too - notably a friend of the Senior Cat who encouraged me to do as he had done and set my sights on an English university education. (I didn't quite manage Cambridge the way he did but I did manage London.) And a writer friend. Well known (a "living treasure" in her time) she still made time to write to me about once a month all through school and beyond. I hugged those letters to myself and shared them with nobody. Now I regret not saving them.
I wrote to other friends. I wrote weekly letters to the friend who has just passed away, weekly that is until the advent of e-mail. Then we would "talk" several times a week.
It has made me wonder about e-mail. Would I have retained other friendships if e-mail had been available? I suspect I might. There was a friend in the UK who embraced e-mail and used, until she too died, to write to me with the opening "Hello Antipodes..." Until then we wrote perhaps twice a year.
Has e-mail changed friendship? I think it might have. I have several wonderful American friends, one of whom is almost part of the family. E-mail keeps us in touch with one another in a way that nothing else could.
The Senior Cat is still suspicious of e-mail. He growls about it and asks, "How do you know they are going to get it...?" ("When they reply," I tell him.) He concedes however that it has its uses.
Yes, it has its uses - so long as you use it.

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